Iowa Speedway hunting for future Sprint Cup date

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The 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway, site of tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, has earned a solid reputation as one of America’s top short tracks. But while the bullring hosts NNS, Camping World Truck Series, and IZOD IndyCar Series races, it has yet to gain the one thing every major-league track wants: A prized date on the Sprint Cup schedule.

And it would appear that the Newton, Iowa facility may have to wait a little longer before they can be up for serious consideration. A bid to help fund improvements to the speedway with an $8 million grant from the state of Iowa fell short earlier this summer; the state’s Senate approved the grant, but it didn’t make it out of the House.

According to an interview this week with USA Today’s Andy Hamilton, track designer and minority owner Rusty Wallace has had multiple ideas on track additions that can help it support a potential Sprint Cup race. However, he admitted that “we’re going to need some help” in order to pay for those things.

“We know that NASCAR doesn’t give anybody anything until everything is in place,” Wallace said to USA Today. “It’s [the grant failure] a little bit of a setback because we wanted to put the infrastructure in place to prove to NASCAR that we’re ready for this race and we’ve got it handled.”

“Now they’ve got to go on our word and our goodwill of what we’ve done in the past.”

Wallace believes his track, which he says brings in $60 million annually for Iowa’s economy, may have to go about buying a date from another track in order to get around Sprint Cup’s very compacted 36-race schedule.

“The way things work, it seems like the schedule’s full, and it’s all about buying dates,” he said. “You’re going to have to buy a date from somebody else.”

Iowa has hosted the IndyCars since 2007, and NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series since 2009.

As for tonight’s NNS event at the facility, qualifying for the U.S. Cellular 250 will go off shortly after 5 p.m. ET. The 250-lap race will follow at 8 p.m. ET.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.